More mental health services needed

By Jeannie Lopez

For the last two months Tulare County Health and Human Service Agency (TCHHSA) has been conducting a series of public meetings discussing services available to children and adults with mental health issues.

The current help available in the foothill areas is Sequoia Youth Services (SYS). Sequoia Youth Services is the only outpatient children's mental health program contracted with TCHHSA available to children in Exeter, Woodlake, Farmersville, Lemon Cove and Three Rivers.

SYS provides a wide range of health services that includes individual and family counseling, day treatment, diagnostic assessment, case management, crisis intervention, medication monitoring, therapeutic behavioral service and group counseling.

SYS consists of five therapists, one psychiatrist, one crisis worker and five rehabilitation staff that provides services to children if they require help. The whole access group covers different schools in the Foothill districts. They do so by meeting with the students where ever needed.

"We can meet the students at their homes or school and we will work with transportation," said Diane Hillard, Program Director of Sequoia Youth Services.

SYS also provides bus passes and gas vouchers to families who can afford transportation to any counseling meetings. They're goal is to help children reach their highest potential in school and home, as well as to prevent the development of more serious problems therefore, they try to meet the needs of the family.

SYS seems to be available to all children in the area but do they spend enough time with the children?

"We try to put students in group counseling first and then we see if they can stay in group or if they need individual counseling," said Raul Covarrubias Associate Clinical Social Worker of Sequoia Youth Services.

"More psychologist time at the school would be beneficial the psychologist is only here half a day out of the week," said interim Superintendent John Hansen of Sequoia Union School District.

"There's always a need for more help, there is a shortage of mental health workers in the county," said Superintendent Steve Tietjen of Woodlake Union High School District.

According to Hillard they are currently looking to hire another therapist for Sequoia Youth Services - the more staff available the more areas the program can cover.

Hillard also said that SYS simply cannot afford to open any additional mental health clinic in the foothill areas.

Therefore children will be referred to SYS, the closet mental health clinic in the area. SYS is located at 514-516 N. Kaweah Ave. in Exeter. They are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. They provide parent support groups from 5-6:30 p.m. on Wednesday at SYS in Exeter and SYS Woodlake Extension Building located on 281 N. Valencia Blvd.

For more information on the programs available at Sequoia Youth Services call 594-4969.

If you are interested in referring a child to the program, you may contact the Intake Specialist at 627-1490.

There is also a 24 hour after hours emergency crisis line which is 800-320-1616.

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